Movies

Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval & Brahim Chioua Talk New Era As They Move On From The Company’s Iconic Name: “I’ve Been Through My Period Of Mourning” — Deadline Q&A

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EXCLUSIVE: Original Wild Bunch co-founders Vincent Maraval and Brahim Chioua bid farewell to the legendary company name they created in 2002 at a party in Paris on Thursday evening.

The move cements the separation of their assets from the pan-European Wild Bunch AG film group, which was created in 2015 out of the merger of their original French company Wild Bunch and Germany’s Senator Film and is now majority-owned by German entrepreneur Lars Windhorst. 

This means Wild Bunch AG no longer owns its 20% stake in the independent standalone international sales company Maraval and Chioua and their 15-strong team launched in 2019 under the banner of Wild Bunch International (WBI). 

The company is now been majority owned by Maraval and Chioua and its staff, with CAA also holding a 20% stake.

The pair are in the process of securing a new name but the public dropping of the Wild Bunch moniker marks a decisive move for them and their team as they continue to build the new company.

Having previously taken inspiration from Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 classic The Wild Bunch, their hoped-for-new banner is taken from a 1990s classic, but the pair are awaiting permission from its A-list director before officially going ahead with the idea. 

Deadline sat down with Maraval and Chioua in Paris to discuss the name change and their plans for the company in the future. 

WBI has continued to dominate at major markets and festivals, handling sales on established A-list festival regulars such as Ken Loach, Claire Denis, Kore-Eda Hirokazu, Maïwenn, Gaspard Noé, Hayao Myiazaki, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne and Cristian Mungiu as well as scout breakout works by newcomers such as Julia Ducournau’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner Titane, Audrey Diwan’s Venice Golden Lion winner Happening, Dea Kulumbegashvili’s San Sebastian Golden Shell winner Beginning.

The company also launched boutique feature animation-focused sales label Gebeka International in partnership with French animation specialist Gebeka, while Maraval also continues to work with Kim Fox at Santa Monica-based sales company The Veterans, in which WBI has a 50% stake alongside MadRiver Pictures.

Maraval and Chioua have also steered the company towards development and production with the creation of Wild West, a joint venture with film company Capricci aimed at developing and producing genre fare, as well as Le Collectif 64 with the producer Marc Dujardin.

Wild West’s first feature production Vincent Must Die is in post-production and three productions are due to shoot this year: FragileDeadman’s Shoes and Le Domaine. The long-term goal is to raise enough finance to support the production of five features a year. 

Outside the company umbrella, Maraval, Chioua and Noëmie Devide launched the indie production label Getaway Films in 2019, which has since produced Alexandra Aja’s Netflix Original Oxygen as well as Michel Hazanavicius’s Cannes 2022 opener Final Cut and Dario Argento’s comeback melo-horror Dark Glasses

DEADLINE: Wild Bunch International has existed as a standalone company since 2019. Why have you decided only now to split from the iconic brand name you created in 2002 but no longer own?

CHIOUA: When we created Wild Bunch International in 2019, Wild Bunch took a 20% stake in exchange for allowing us to use the Wild Bunch brand in our name under a signed three-year agreement.

We had a second commercial cooperation deal for the same period under which Wild Bunch International continued to sell and manage Wild Bunch’s international catalogue for a fee, and also had access to the group’s back-office services, for which we paid a fee. 

This deal came to an end in November 2022 with a get-out clause for both parties.  We opted to buyout Wild Bunch’s equity share. 

MARAVAL: Wild Bunch were happy to keep the association because it enabled the group to keep a foot in international sales, but we wanted our independence. This move is not against Wild Bunch, because we want to continue working with the group, but we simply want to chart our own course. 

The change of name marks the final act of an adventure which ended three years ago when we left to set up Wild Bunch International. For our sake and the sake of the team, it’s time to move on rather than dragging the Wild Bunch legacy around with us.

DEADLINE: Did you bring in new partners to finance the buyout?

CHIOUA: No, Vincent and I bought back a part and then, for the other part WBI bought back its own shares in the Wild Bunch group, and then there was a capital reduction. The terms of the redemption price were fixed in a signed agreement in 2019 and based on the accumulated results for WBI during this period.

DEADLINE: Even though you are no longer linked via capital do you think you will continue to work with the Wild Bunch group?

Yes, we are working on a cooperation agreement that will be announced shortly to co-finance projects and corporate development. We grew up with the Wild Bunch team and we hired many of them. They are our family and the agreement we are finalizing will show how we can develop together and benefit from each other.

DEADLINE: What has happened to the international rights for the catalogue that Wild Bunch built up during your involvement in the company from 2002 to 2019?

MARAVAL: They belong to Wild Bunch.

DEADLINE: Who is going to look after those library titles in the future?

MARAVAL: Wild Bunch. The group will decide the best way to commercialize them.  We’re in discussions as to what would be the best solution for these titles, but ultimately, it’s not our call. 

CHIOUA: What’s important for us now is the next films by these directors. 

DEADLINE: Have you built up much of a new catalogue under Wild Bunch International?

CHIOUA: We’ve got around 100 titles. 

MARAVAL: Everything we’ve worked on over the last three-and-a-half years has been signed to Wild Bunch International and stays with us – so titles such as TitaneHappeningVortex, Final CutSaint Omer, Holy Spider, The Innocent.

DEADLINE: You have always worked closely with CAA. How does this move impact your relationship with the agency? 

MARAVAL: CAA has been an historical partner and they allowed us to start the new company three years ago. Our relationship is probably one we are the most proud of because this goes beyond a simple business relationship.

Together with Roeg Sutherland’s team, we built a unique business model of synergies and connection in term of promotion, financing , talent representation that benefit the talent and the producers we are working with such as Alice Diop, Nadine Labaki, Claire Denis, Rebecca Zlotowski, Ladj Ly, Jacques Audiard or Gaspar Noé for example. 

DEADLINE: How do you feel about disassociating yourself from the Wild Bunch name? You created it and are renowned in the international film community under that brand.

MARAVAL: I’ve already been through my mourning period. It was finished for me the day we left to set up Wild Bunch International. That marked the start of a new adventure, with a different way of doing things, a new structure and strategy. 

The market and the environment had changed, which convinced us it was time to become a smaller and more flexible company capable of reacting quickly to everything that was happening in our industry. 

DEADLINE: When the Wild Bunch and Senator merger was sealed in 2015, it was heralded as the first step in creating a pan-European production and distribution group with clout. This has not come to pass, and you lost Wild Bunch in the process. How do you feel about this?

CHIOUA: The company went through a difficult time when things that had been promised under the merger didn’t materialize.  To make sure we didn’t let down any suppliers or people in the sector, we renegotiated the debt and lost our financial influence in the group. The writing was on the wall. But we’re partly responsible for what happened. We were the heads of the company.

MARAVAL: The choice of films, investment choices were down to us… for the company to survive we had to give our shares to Lars [Windhorst] but that marked the end of the Wild Bunch adventure for us. 

DEADLINE: If Wild Bunch had not merged with Senator, you would perhaps still be in control of the company?

MARAVAL: Maybe, but we needed a partner. We couldn’t go on alone. 

DEADLINE: Will the name change ring in any structural changes for your new company?

MARAVAL: We’ve been operational for three-and-a-half years. Nothing changes. It’s rather that now that we’ve put a number of initiatives in place such as the creation of Getaway Films, Wild West, Gebeka International and Le Collectif 64, it makes sense to cement the new structure with a new name. 

DEADLINE: As well as continuing to work on international sales, the new company seems more directly involved in producing...

MARAVAL: International sales is no longer our only activity. We’re much more involved as active co-producing partners whether it’s through Le Collectif 64 or Wild West. It’s not like in the past when a company such as Fidelité would come to us with a film, and we would say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Now, we participate in the development, financing and packaging of projects.

Changes in the industry meant we had to reformat ourselves. We don’t have to sell the films produced by Getaway Films, Wild West or Le Collectif 64 because with those companies we’re wearing a co-producer hat with an active role. We need to find the best solution for each film, which won’t necessarily involve us selling it internationally on a territory basis. 

DEADLINE: What’s driven this new approach?

MARAVAL: Look at the recent results for the last Dardenne Brothers film, which hasn’t worked [theatrically] even if I think it is their best film in some time. What’s to stop them cutting a deal directly with Netflix for the next film. It’s unlikely but it begs the question, where are we in all that, even if we deem to have played our part in cultivating audiences for their films?

DEADLINE: Are there are other company projects coming down the line?

MARAVAL: Nothing we can announce yet. Staff numbers will rise to around 20 employees, but the main growth will come through the expansion of the network of indie companies in which we have a share, in the same vein as Wild West or Le Collectif 64.

I think the important thing to highlight is that international sales remain an important window for us and a fantastic way to access talent and finance films, but it’s no longer our only activity. We’ll never give-up on sales. We think it’s important to continue working with our distributor network and we also believe in its economy, but the business has changed, and we have too. 

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